Growing up on the Vineyard, I long ago came to terms with finding wildlife in my house.
Ticks, spiders, mosquitoes and moths in summer; mice (both in traps and scurrying across dining room floors) in the winter. Once, a pair of baby raccoons camped out in our yard. Had I opened the backdoor, they would have waddled right into our dining room.
But no amount of Island insects, rodents, or bugs could have prepared me for the Cambridge bat.
After a long work day, I walked into the comfort of my one-bedroom apartment last Tuesday, put on a pot of water for pasta, and headed to the bathroom for a shower. Out of nowhere, something flew straight at me and into my chest.
I screamed. I screamed bloody murder. And I ran into the kitchen, cursing myself. Had I been on the Vineyard, I thought as I crouched in the corner, I would have called Gus Ben David at Felix Neck. I would have called Mitchell Posin, my family’s next door neighbor at the Allen Sheep Farm. Heck, I would have called my dad.
But this was Cambridge and I live alone — something I was pretty happy about.
Until Tuesday night. My neighbors are an Indian family and a young couple — not farmers. I couldn’t quite bring myself to call upon them for help. Plus, doing so would have meant leaving the relative safety of the kitchen and I could hear that bat flying into walls.
So I called the Cambridge Police.
“We can’t do anything, ma’am,” the responding officer told me.
“But isn’t there an animal control officer you could call,” I asked. It seemed reasonable. The bat could have been carrying rabies for all I knew, and isn’t that a public safety issue?
“We don’t do that sort of thing. Open your windows.” Click.
My next call was to my building’s maintenance man. But, as he reminded me, it was 8:30 at night and he lives an hour away. Couldn’t this wait until morning? Clearly he had never had a bat flying around his living room.
Then I did call my dad. Even though he was on the Vineyard, it seemed like a logical next step. No answer. I called a friend, then another and another. Each time, no answer.
In desperation, I called my mother. “There is a bat INSIDE my apartment,” I wailed into the receiver. Ever rational, she suggested phoning my childhood best friend, a Vineyard girl who now works in Cambridge.
“Isn’t her housemate a carpenter?” my mom asked. He is, and I called him.
Like a hero, he chased the bat down for 20 minutes while I stayed safely in the hallway. When the bat flew into my oven through a burner on the stove, he went back to his van for tools and took the oven apart. Finally, two hours after the thing first flew into me, he caught it in a towel and set it free. It was a very Vineyard thing to do.
Later I had the landlord install a screen over the chimney. Ticks and spiders and mice on the Island are one thing. A bat in Cambridge is quite another.
Julia Rappaport, a former Vineyard Gazette reporter, is assistant arts and lifestyle editor at the Boston Herald.